MIAMI — After 25 years of ranking beaches, the professor known as "Dr. Beach" is starting his list of best beaches over from scratch in 2016. And he'll be giving extra credit to beaches that ban smoking.
Professor Stephen Leatherman of Florida International University began his best beaches list in 1991. Once a beach achieved the No. 1 ranking, it was retired from consideration on future lists.
But now he says he'll start fresh next year so that even beaches that he previously rated as tops have a shot at the No. 1 slot again.
Leatherman rates beaches using 50 criteria including water temperature, air temperature, number of sunny days, rip currents, water color, algae, views, access, seaweed and noise. But beginning in 2016, he says he'll give extra points to beaches that ban smoking.
"The No. 1 form of litter on beaches is cigarette butts, and it is disgusting," Leatherman said in an email. "There is a national movement to prevent smoking, especially on public lands, and beaches should be a priority."
Dr. Beach's pick for best beach of 2015 was Hawaii's Waimanalo Beach on Oahu.